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Better Late Than Never for New Jersey Devil Ilya Kovalchuk

January 12th, 2013 at 10:54 AM
By Philip Coffey

The status of Ilya Kovalchuk, the New Jersey Devils' international man of mystery, is clearing up.

He intends to play in KHL All-Star Game and then return to New Jersey Tuesday, which gets him into town late for the start of training camp for the truncated 2013 season. This tardiness will undoubtedly create another swirl of controversy among a fan base that has been less than receptive to Kovalchuk's heavily translated quotes that he would like to continue playing in Russia, but has contract obligations in the NHL.

But in reality, all of this is a tempest in a teapot for the simple reason that the Devils need Kovalchuk in a shortened season and he figures to be  among the most fit and able of players after competing in the KHL for so long.

Now as for any perceived slight of the Devils, folks need to take a chill pill. Of course Kovalchuk enjoys playing in Russia, it's home. And he took playing in the KHL All-Star Game as a fitting farewell. But he also recognized his obligation to the Devils and is coming back.

If the skate was on the other foot and say an American or Canadian with a valid KHL contract was playing in North America during a work stoppage, the comments made by Kovalchuk would be what you have expected to hear from that North American player, namely how great it was to play at home, it si tough to leave, but obligations exist. So the folks on the assorted message boards who are roasting Kovalchuk should chill out and put the loyalty oaths away.

Bottom line, Kovalvchuk is returning and he is the team's best player.

But Kovalchuk may feel a little heat from Lou Lamoriello, who continues to "no comment" the media on Kovalchuk. So, reading the tea leaves, Lamoriello would want Kovalchuk back for the opening of camp, but know there is little he can do about it.

Now agent Jay Grossman, who also has been pretty mum on the situation, said on Twitter that there has  been "direct and thorough communication with New Jersey Devils throughout." Lamoriello offered another no comment on that little gem.

In other developments or non-developments, the 2103 schedule has been leaked in some spots, but the official one will be released when the players' vote on the new CBA is in and presumably approved.

Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record reports that defenseman Anton Volchenkov is being held up by work visa problems. But Lamoriello told Gulitti the paperwork should be cleared for his arrival at camp Sunday.

The Devils are doing some physicals Saturday in advance of the opening of camp, a move sanctioned by the league and the PA.

Gulitti also notes that 2012 first-round pick Stefan Matteau has been invited to camp. He has 18 goals and 10 assists in 34 games in the Quebec Major Junior League so far this season. He is the lone junior prospect coming  to camps and can play in five games before it counts as a full NHL season.

With the AHL's Albany Devils well into their schedule, the Devils may not recall too many players beyond the obvious — Jacob Josefson, Stephen Gionta, Adam Larsson, etc.The injured Adam Henrique won't be skating for a time either.

So this very unusual training camp will see Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg in net, a total of eight defensemen and 15 to 18 forwards for coach Pete DeBoer and his new coaching staff to get acquainted with in a hurry.

Tags: Hockey, New Jersey, New Jersey Devils, NHL

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